June 2010 Archives

June 23, 2010

Prenatal Choline and Children's Sleep Patterns

filed under: Choline Benefits Personal Experience
I think I've made an interesting realization this past week.  As I noted earlier in this blog - early on in our child's life (when he was 6 to 9 months old) we noticed that if he had extra choline during the day (typically by way of an egg yolk) he would not have his normal nap schedule - and would typically skip a nap, or (if he had two egg yolks that day) skip both scheduled naps that day.

This is consistent with what the research has shown in other mammals - as I've read in the research papers.  After a certain point - I forget exactly when - but perhaps around 14 months or so - I noticed that the additional choline provided by egg yolks no longer seemed to provide the same increase in waking energy and reduced sleep.  He'd eat his egg yolk(s) and his nap schedule was no longer impacted.  This has been the case for most of the last 6 months or so - but this week I noticed something unusual.

Early in life - the impact of the added choline on our son (who was exposed to about 3.5 grams of choline / day during pregnancy) was very clear and rapid; he didn't get tired during the normal times, and with two egg yolks would skip his naps entirely and stay wide awake and playful until a late bedtime (8 or 9pm if I remember correctly).

This week I realized that the additional choline received from the egg yolks does seem to still be having an impact on his sleep patterns.  The past few weeks I've been giving him the occasional omelette which consists just of three egg yolks (no whites) - or about 350 mg of choline.  When I do this there is no change in his daily sleep habits - he still sleeps his normal 2 to 3 hour long nap from about noon to 3pm, and goes to be around 7/8pm.  This is, I think, why I thought the "Choline Effect" had worn off and was no longer effective. 

But for most of the past few months our son has been a very regular 12 hour a night sleeper - if he goes to bed at 7pm, he wakes up at 7am.  If he goes to sleep at 8pm, he wakes up at about 8am.  But then I started giving him these 3-egg omelettes and suddenly he was waking up at 5:30am or 6am in the morning.  I've now noticed this every time I give him the three egg omelette.  It seems that the choline effect is delayed now that he's older - so that it hits him about 20 hours after he consumes the eggs and added choline.  Interesting. 

I've backed off on his three-egg breakfast omelettes now because I need the sleep - but I'll be trying some 3 egg-yolk omelettes at lunch and dinner and see what happens, and will report back.


June 2, 2010

Choline during Pregnancy - Mitigates Downs Syndrome in Child

filed under: Choline Benefits Prenatal Choline Research Study
More good news about taking choline during pregnancy.  A new research study out of Cornell University showed that in a mouse model of down syndrome (a mouse that is genetically designed to develop downs syndrome like disease) the pregnant and lactating mice that received additional choline had babies that fared much better than those whose mother's did no receive choline. 

More choline during pregnancy and nursing could provide lasting cognitive and emotional benefits to individuals with Down syndrome and protect against neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer's disease, suggests a new Cornell study of mice.

The findings, published June 2 in , could help lead to increasing the maternal dietary recommendations for choline (currently 450 milligrams a day during pregnancy, 550 milligrams for lactation), a nutrient found in egg yolks, liver, nuts and such vegetables as broccoli and cauliflower.

"We found that supplementing the maternal diet with additional choline resulted in dramatic improvements in attention and some normalization of emotion regulation in a mouse model of Down syndrome," said lead author Barbara Strupp, professor of nutritional sciences and of psychology. The researchers also found evidence for "subtle, but statistically significant, improvement in learning ability in the non-Down syndrome littermates."

In addition to mental retardation, Down syndrome individuals often experience dementia in middle age as a result of brain neuron atrophy similar to that suffered by people with Alzheimer's disease. Strupp noted that the improved mental abilities found in the Down syndrome mice following maternal choline supplements could indicate protection from such neurodegeneration "in the population at large."

Strupp and her co-authors tested Down syndrome model mice born from mothers fed a normal diet and those given choline supplements during their three-week pregnancy and three-week lactation period, as well as normal mice born from mothers with and without additional choline. The choline-supplemented mothers received approximately 4.5 times more choline (roughly comparable to levels at the higher range of human intake) than unsupplemented mothers.

At six months of age, the mice performed a series of behavioral tasks for about six months to assess their impulsivity, attention span, emotion control and other mental abilities.  

In addition to dramatic improvements in attention, the researchers found that the unsupplemented Down syndrome model mice became more agitated after a mistake than normal mice, jumping repeatedly and taking longer to initiate the next trial, whereas the choline-supplemented Down syndrome model mice showed partial improvement in these areas.

"I'm impressed by the magnitude of the cognitive benefits seen in the Down syndrome model mice," Strupp said. "Moreover, these are clearly lasting cognitive improvements, seen many months after the period of choline supplementation."

Strupp noted that the results are consistent with studies by other researchers that found increased maternal choline intake improves offspring cognitive abilities in rats. However, this is the first study to evaluate the effects of maternal choline supplementation in a rodent model of downs syndrome.  This is also one of the few studies that has evaluated offspring attentional function and effects in mice, rather than rats, Strupp noted.

Previous studies of humans and laboratory animals have shown that supplementing the diets of adults with choline has proven to be largely ineffective in improving cognition. "Although the precise mechanism is unknown, these lasting beneficial effects of choline observed in the present study are likely to be limited to increased intake during very early development," Strupp said.

Source: Cornell University